“Married?! Isn’t that super extreme!!”
“It is but I don’t know how else to solve this problem. How will you get your citizenship? A family adopting you perhaps? But who will adopt a girl they don’t know with a reputation of being a loose woman? There is no good family in town that will accept you with a reputation like that.”
Caroline’s eyes started to tear up. “This isn’t fair! To me or to Thio! He was just being nice!”
“And that is admirable of him. But if Thio is going to “be nice”, he must be nice all the way through. Otherwise he is just being cruel in the end. You must keep that in mind too, if you are to survive. Never be kind to someone unless you mean to carry it through to the end. Anything less is just selfishness on your part.”
Thio, who’d been quiet this entire, cleared his throat. “If it helps any… I won’t be in town past the end of this week.”
The Priest and Caroline looked at him in surprise.
“I meant to say this early,” He looked miserable. “But I’ve been summoned by the Army.”
Father Richard smiled. “Then your application was accepted! Congratulations!”
“Not… not exactly.”
“I… I’ve been selected for the Mage Division.”
Both men sat there quietly.
“Is that bad?” Caroline asked.
“Ah,” Father Richard spoke up when Thio didn’t. “No, no… it’s quite respectable it’s just…”
“I was trying to join the Knights.” Thio’s face twisted bitterly.
“He’s been training for years to be a Knight, you see.” The Father Explained. “Just two generations ago his family were proud Knights. Very well respected. But starting from his Grandfather, they made progressively worse and worse decisions, until they were stripped of their title. I’m sorry to say, Thio’s father did not learn from the mistakes of the generation before, and squandered what was left of the family’s estate.”
“I was going to… going to regain the family honor.” Thio said through a clenched jaw.
“Dear Thio,” The Priest looked worried. “While it may not be through the Knights, you can still gain honor in the Mage Division.”
Thio didn’t respond, but there was a dark look in his eyes. Clearly he did not view the Mage Division to be on pair with the Knights.
“So… you’re leaving at the end of the week?” Caroline brought the main point back to focus.
“Right. So even if we get married, not much will change in terms of our freedoms. I’ll go to the Capital and you… you can stay here. You can live in my house, until you can afford a nicer one.”
“And of course, the Church will help you if you need anything else.” The Father offered kindly.
“Well…” Caroline still wasn’t sure. Wasn’t marriage a big commitment? “What happens if you find someone you like Thio?”
“Just me? What about you?” Thio looked slightly offended. “What do you think Father Richard?”
“I do believe if you are married to someone for a certain amount of time, they become naturalized citizens of the Empire. I’m not sure exactly how long though. As for the religious aspect…” He tugged on his beard, a habit when he was thinking apparently. “As long as you don’t consummate the marriage, I will consider it an annulment rather than divorce, which means I can marry you——or recommend another Priest to do so——without their being a problem.” He cleared his throat. “Though I hope you understand that by going this route, we are somewhat deceiving the government. And even if you’ve not laid hands on each other, for your reputations sake, don’t chase other people until the marriage is properly finished. Do I have both your words to remain celibate until the appointed time?”
“I’m fine with the deception. I don’t want to get thrown into jail.” Caroline said earnestly. “And I promise to remain celibate.”
Thio shrugged. “You have my word to remain celibate as well.”
Unbeknownst to both, they were thinking along the same lines: It’s not like I’m going to have problems keeping that kind of promise. No one’s ever approached me before and they’re definitely less likely to do it now. And I don’t really care what they do while I’m away either. Sleep around for all I care! We won’t be near each other so what’s it matter?
“Then it’s settled.” The Priest gave a single clap. “When I leave, I’ll start pushing the rumors in the correct direction, which I think will be fairly easy. Tomorrow I’ll go to the Guard Headquarters and talk to the Head Guard as well. Can you both meet me at the Church before supper? We should be able to complete the process at that point.”
They both agreed. They then went to check on Thio’s father, only to find he’d already left. Smart of him, Caroline thought meanly. After hearing about Thio’s family, she was even less inclined to forgive him. At no point did she plan on thinking of that jerk as family.
Father Richard talked to the neighbors as promised. And as he’d suspected, it was a fairly simple thing to push the rumors in a positive direction. Caroline’s behavior already had several people convinced she was Thio’s lover. Paired with a Priest speaking favorable of their relationship and an upcoming marriage, it was impossible not to think well of both young people.
If there was one down side, it was that the town’s folk would forever think of Thio as a passionate romantic. Having Caroline in his house that week before he left certainly didn’t help matters. Everyone assumed him to an “impatient man”. He was teased mercilessly the week before he left because of it. For a man who’d never been any of those things, having to put up with the teasing felt like a trial sent by God.
With the Priest on their side, the Head Guard was more than willing to look over any minor discrepancies in the whole ordeal. He quite willing got all the paperwork in order for Caroline. Once at the Church, the Priest had Thio and Caroline sign the papers, and then “officiated” their wedding.
The week left passed by relatively quickly for Caroline. Thio taught her as much as he could, as fast as he could, so that she wouldn’t be totally ignorant. He also tried to give her some background about his family so that she would seem passably informed about her “husband”.
Caroline learned the ropes of the Adventurer’s Guild as their secretary. Her first week was a little rough, if only for the fact that she was missing a lot of fundamental information. For instance, she had no idea what the exchange rate between the coins. In fact, she was amazed to see people using coins at all.
The money system, from big to small, went like this: Gilda, Silva, Nock, and Coppers.
Gilda, which were gold based, weren’t shaped like coins, but as long rectangular sticks that had a whole at the end. Silva were coins with square holes in them, while Nock and Coppers had regular round holes. People frequently carried their money strings, either around their necks or in a leather bag at their waist. One Gilda equaled 1,000 Coppers.
Caroline made 10 Coppers a day, which added up to be about 2 Silvas and 10 Nocks at the end of the week. If she didn’t spend a single copper by the end of the year, she’d have a little over 2 Gilda.
Thio informed her that was excellent wage for someone with no work history or reputation in the town. He’d been in the town his whole life and averaged about 5 Coppers a day, which wasn’t too shabby for someone abandoned by his mother with a hobo drunkard for a father. Once again, reputation mattered. And while Thio was a hard worker, shaking the dishonor of his family was difficult.
Of course, now that he was going into the Army, he’d be getting a substantial increase in pay, which would only get higher the longer he was in. And since he was leaving the town, he didn’t have to worry about his family baggage getting in the way of his future. He just bitterly resented he had to do it as a Mage.
Though they got along well enough, both Thio and Caroline made no attempt to deepen the bonds of friendship. It just didn’t make any sense to either of them, since one was leaving and had no intention of coming back. But since they WERE technically married, they made a show of when he left. There was some heartfelt farewells and Caroline even managed to squeeze out some fake tears near the end.
And that was how Thio, who’d just joined the Mage Division, got a wife.